What is Skandalopetra?
is a piece of Stone, commonly made of granite or marble, with rounded
corners and hydrodynamic scheme. It weights from 6 to 14 Kg , and it’s
been used by Greek sponge divers, from the ancient years, as an auxiliary
This method of sponge diving was common in all the islands in the Aegian
Sea and mainly in Kalymnos up till the 1960s, where it was afterwards
replaced with the diving suit.
The worldwide diving community probably heard about Giorgos Hatzis who on July 14th 1913 in the gulf of Wells in Karpathos, dove with a 14 Kg stone in his hands, to recover the lost anchor of the Italian warship "Regina Margherita", from an amazing depth of 83 m.
The sponge-diver apneist, naked according to the tradition, with a swim
suit (his today’s counterpart see photo) is holding the Stone which
is tied up, from a small hole at its end, with a long rope that is unfolded
from the diving boat on the descent and is gathered on the ascent. The
diver ties also the stone in his hand with a small robe (“gasa”), which
enables him to free his hands without loosing contact with the stone
and the boat. This long robe is a communication line just like an umbilical
cord between the diver and the surface. This axial relationship, stone
– diver - surface gave skandalopetra an amazing safety profile throughout
the previous tough centuries!
Skandalopetra: Why it is safe?
A Sponge-diver has been always under direct supervision by the surface staff with the help of the "glass".
No one could dive alone with this method. It was simply impossible. Always there was someone called "Kolaouzieris" whose role was to assist the diver by handing him the stone just before the dive, and by managing the rope. Particularly he was unfolding the rope on the descent, and then as soon as he was getting a rope signal to pull-up he was quickly gathering it, bringing both the stone and the diver to the surface.
Kolaouzieris had always the option to stop the descent if something was not quite correct during the process.
The sponge – diver had always the choice of dropping the stone and to ascend free to the surface in the event of any problem.
The sponge diver had a direct "life-line" at all times that was connecting him with the surface support with the help of "gasa". Kolaouzieris could always bring the diver up even if the diver was unconscious.
Oxygen consumption was minimal as skandalopetra diving does not require any effort. Older sponge divers were not loosing any air to equalize on their descent. Simply, they were not requiring equalization as they had no tympanic membranes. This cruel procedure of voluntary self-rupturing ones tympanic membranes is known as "Xemixiasma".
The ascent: The diver was standing on the stone, with his body in the upright position, holding the line in a relaxed state, signaling Kolaouzieris for the ascent with 2-3 line pulls and then Kolaouzieris was pulling the diver up to the surface, along with his stone.
Skandalopetra at competition level
The use of a nose peg is allowed for equalization
The athlete stays as calm as possible during the dive so there will be no energy expenditure from unnecessary muscular exercise.
Neither the descent nor the ascent requires any effort by the diver. The athlete has nothing to do but diving negatively buoyant drifted downwards by the weight of the stone and then he stands on it, tack the line and being pulled to the surface.
The athlete has to deal with thermoclines and has to adopt his vision without the help of a mask.
The rope (line) is marked every 5 or 10 meters. This will enable the surface staff to know the current depth at any given moment of the dive.
Judges are being employed on the diving platform and in the sea (mid-water and bottom) in a way that the dive can be monitored second by second. They may call the dive off in the event of any problem, or even they may cancel the dive in case that the athlete presents any pre-dive difficulties or problems.
There are safety divers both with free diving and SCUBA diving gear ready to assist in the event of an emergency.
Skandalopetra - an interesting story
Georghios Triantafyllos or Latari
This is an interesting story dated back to 1888 in the open Libyan sea
somewhere off Tripoli. As Latari was diving holding the stone in his
hand he dove directly into the open mouth of a monster fish. He described
his experience as a sudden blackout (loss of vision) and a sense of
a strong force pushing him. The fish swallowed him but expelled him
at the same time due apparently to the unpleasant speed and weight of
the stone that was a life-saving fact for Latari. He suffered cuts on
his hands and torso. This man survived to share his amazing story but
he died during WWII from starvation!
Diving with skandalopetra is easy yet highly technical and requires a skillful team.
One should know its features and abilities to dive effectively.
It is definitely a team work process (diver – Kolaouzieris)
The athlete concentrates seated on his knees, breaths for relaxation,
then stands up and dive.
The dive is head first (head down)
The diver holds the stone tightly with both hands stretched foreword.
If the hands are loose, a bad entry may result and the stone might be involuntary dropped.
The dive should be as vertical as possible and the course a direct
line to the bottom.
The features of skandalopetra
The diver may acquire fast speed in the beginning of the dive, by
holding the stone with both hands extended ahead and positioning his
hands on the proximal part of the stone.
Holding the stone from the middle would give a medium descent rate.
If the diver wishes to have slower descent then he holds the stone
by its distant part.
We should avoid holding the stone by the robe. This would give rise
to spiral descent especially when there are currents.
Stoper: By turning the stone upward we create more drag and we slow our descent significantly. This would help us deal with equalization or visual difficulties on our descent.
Steering: We may twist the stone right or left and by this we can have a perfect control upon our course of descent.
Ballast: By holding the stone underarm while we are on the bottom
we may stay down or even we can walk or run on the sea bed.
Team-work is a must
The assistant (Kolaouzieris) unfolds the robe.
He should be able to tell the current depth of the diver at any given moment.
Kolaouzieris actually feels when the diver slows down to equalize.
He is able to tell if the diver is holding the stone or if he dropped it.
He knows when the diver reaches the bottom.
The assistant knows when is the appropriate moment to begin pulling the diver to the surface.
The diver signals his/her assistant to let him/her hold the stone.
He dives with a head down position, vertically and directly to the sea bed below.
The diver should be able to handle the stone effectively to manage his speed, position and direction.
As soon as he reaches to the pre-defined depth, he tucks the line 2-3 times, giving the up signal to the assistant to begin pulling up.
Pulling the diver up
There is a specific method of pulling the diver up to the surface. There are
variations though according to the diving depth. For shallow depths
usually one assistant is enough while for relatively deeper dives more
assistants may be used. Skilful assistants know how to bring their diver
team made up to the surface with a very high speed.
Offizielle Homepage Skandalopetra
English Translation by Sotos Christodoulou.